Week 2b. Project Management Methodologies

In a number of the classes that I teach on project management and leadership we talk about the different methodologies that are used for project management. The most popular of these appears to remain the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, used by hundred’s of thousands of Project Management Professionals globally.

Ed Happ, a friend of mine who now works for the International Red Cross in Geneva, sent me the following diagram a few years ago and I think that it is quite helpful in categorising the various methodologies that are used today:

The horizontal axis of this chart ranges from projects that are heavy weight and highly stable to projects that are light weight and involve a significant degree of change as they proceed. The vertical axis shows methodologies that range from being participative, iterative and highly collaborative to those that are highly procedural, regimented and involve low levels of collaboration.

The Project Management Institute’s methodology (on the chart as PMI) is thought to be more appropriate for heavy weight, highly stable projects, and moderately participative, iterative and highly collaborative.  The following video is an introduction to the PMI:

As the chart shows there are other methodologies available that influence how projects are conducted. Another popular approach is the Waterfall methodology in which projects are outlined in stages and work proceeds in order from one stage to the next. The following video explains this approach to project management:

In contrast with Waterfall, Agile project management has become popular in recent years, especially for information technology oriented projects. Agile methodologies are referred to as “complex adaptive systems” because they adapt to the needs of the project as the project proceeds. Typically agile project teams are small (5 – 9 members is often cited as a guideline). They are guided by a strong vision that is instilled in team mebers at the beginning of the project and they operate using simple rules for team operations. They feature free and open access to project information and the management style adopted is described as “;ight touch” – emphasis is placed on positive motivation of team members.

The following video contrasts Agile and Waterfall methodologies:

The Agile approach focuses on the team’s ability to manage and adapt to change as the project proceeds and is argued to be more suited to the uncertain environment of information technology oriented projects. However, Agile isn’t easy – the following video is a useful case study on one project manager’s experience:

One of the key concepts in Agile is known as SCRUM and this video allows you to understand some of the detail of how Agile project management is applied:

Other approaches to project management have also emerged. Prince2 is the project management methodology developed by the UK government. It is similar to the PMBOK from the Project Management Institute in that they are both focussed on project management processes and would appear near it on the methodology matrix. The following chart illustrates the similarities between the two methodologies: (from an online comparison of PMBOK and Prince2)

ITIL (or Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is also popular today as a way to organise company information technology activity. It is not a project management methodology but as much IT activity is project oriented it is useful to understand as part of the context of project management. The following video explains ITIL and the structure that it provides:

This post has discussed the the main project management methodologies that are available today. I hope that you will find it helpful.


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